Port of Newcastle armed for keelboat action

Port of Newcastle armed for keelboat action

by Mark Rothfield Mar 25 23:01 UTC

SailFest Newcastle Regatta © Salty Dingo

Few cities in Australia, let alone in the world, allow spectators to wander the waterfront and watch international match racing and high performance catamarans and skiffs in action on the harbour, ocean racers high prices off its beaches and children sailing for free in a protected basin.

The main attraction is once again Sydney’s TP52 fleet, sailing in their Gold Cup series, and the feeling is apparently mutual – skippers and crew love coming here for the hospitality provided by the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club. Nine TPs are entered, one of the largest class gatherings in the world – Celestial, Frantic, Gweilo, Ichi Ban, Koa, Matador, Quest, Smuggler and Zen.

Last year’s start featured eight TPs hovering on the line under spinnaker, fanned by a wild westerly wind. In over 175 years of regattas sailing the harbour, seldom has a sight been more captivating for spectators and crew – not so much for the guys writing the cheques.

The well-oiled racing machines and crews showed remarkable control as they reached over 20 knots just meters from the gunwales of each other, further confined by breakwater rocks and shipping marks.

In the end, it was Tony Kirby’s yacht Patrice that got the jump and took IRC honors ahead of Ichi Ban, winner of Matt Allen in Hobart. The TP52 Gold Cup, awarded under the class’s TPR handicap system, went to Quest.

“It’s such a big event to have so many TPs here and as for the start, I’m not sure 175, but it was the most exciting I’ve been at,” said the Quest owner Craig Neil as he held his cup aloft.

Smuggler claimed second place, owner Sebastian Bohm also spoke on the terms: “It was heart-in-your-mouth stuff,” he said. “As soon as the cannon went off, a 25-30 knot gust passed and we were absolutely flying into harbor. We had Ichi Ban and Matador above us, and Quest and Celestial below us, so it was quite intense but a lot of fun.”

The offshore racing fleet has 18 starters, including the Newcastle-based TP52 Woteva piloted by the Making Waves Foundation.

The opening dance of the Asia Pacific Sailing Champions League match-racing finals also begins today, with yacht club crews from across Australia – and Vanuatu, racing directly past the Honeysuckle Hotel during both days.

The Port Hunter Sailing Club is hosting a 16ft single scull regatta today, while the iconic race known as the Cock of the Harbor moves to a Sunday timeslot. The latter’s sole purpose is to determine the fastest sailing craft in port, as it did when gaff-rigged workboats criss-crossed the harbor. It is one of Australia’s oldest sailing trophies.

Send It Marine brothers Daniel and Nathan Van Kerckhof are the defending champions. Representing Tanilba Bay Sailing Club, they sailed a brand new Goodall Akurra F18 to narrowly beat the F20 Thunderbolt (Brett White, Ethan McAlauf), while another F18, 1484, finished third.

Children can also take part in a free Try-Sailing experience in the sheltered waters of Throsby Basin, next to Carrington Bridge, from 9am to 12pm on both days. This will give them the chance to learn a new skill aboard one of the NCYC’s Tackers trainers. No registration necessary.

Supported by Newcastle City Council and Transport for NSW, SailFest culminates the following Sunday with the Newcastle-Port Stephens Feeder Race for its sister regatta, Sailing Port Stephens.

For more details, see sailfest.com.au Where facebook.com/sailfestnewcastle.

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